Saturday night – what’s up? While recovering from the second Frederick Music Showcase on Thursday – and the beginning of the Heavy Lights residency at Cafe Nola on Friday – you might just want to check out this great band coming to Nola. The Receiver, who hail from Ohio and have been featured on NPR, will bring their synth-heavy pop to Frederick, and you – yes, you! – really ought to care. We recently caught up with the duo’s drummer, Jesse Cooper, to talk about how the band got together, this super-neat Beatles-heavy side project he’s involved with, and, for all of us drum nerds, what it’s like to play to a click track. They are set to take the Cafe Nola stage at 9:30 Saturday night. You won’t want to miss it.
Your website says you formed in 2005. It’s always been hard to keep a band together for an extended period of time, but it’s especially hard these days, when on a practical level, it might be tougher than ever to make a living through music, which in turn leads a lot of artists to call it quits. To what do you attribute your longevity thus far?
Well, for one, Casey and I are brothers. I’m four years older so we’re close in age and we’ve also lived together for roughly the last 10 years. I think that, in itself, has helped us sustain as a band. We’re also just very dedicated to The Receiver. Being a part of a music scene, you see bands come and go all the time. We just believe so much in this music that throwing in the towel isn’t an option. My philosophy is the moment you quit is when you can guarantee yourself to no longer see any progress or success. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not easy. Figuring out how to get to the next step is always such a challenge, whether it’s getting an album done (recording, mixing, producing, mastering) or getting in front of audiences who appreciate what you’re doing.
From what I understand, you guys have put out three records. How has The Receiver evolved throughout each of those releases? Do you have favorite albums or songs? What makes them your favorite?
It’s been an ongoing learning experience for sure. With our first album, “Decades” (2006), we were dealing with our first true recording and co-producing endeavor. The process was completely new to us and listening back now, it has a really green feel, like a lot of bands’ first albums do. We’ve strayed away from a lot of the material recently, but we’re digging it all out for this tour. Fans can expect to hear songs such as “Goliath” and “In Tunnels.” With “Length Of Arms”(2009), our goal was to try and expand on our first effort. Casey was really digging into more synths and searched endlessly for tones that complimented each other. “Length Of Arms” had a lot more going on everywhere and the result was this huge wall of sound. Songs like “Visitor,” “Skin and Bone,” and “Castles In The Air” are show staples of ours. They’re all up-tempo and so fun to play. Our newest album, “All Burn” (2015), we wanted to really capture a mood and we set out to make a sort of concept album. This was our first album we completely produced ourselves from start to finish and the result was a really focused nugget of an album. We stressed trimming fat and making every second count as much as we could. This tour will focus on much of this album. Our favorite songs to play right now are “Transit,” “To Battle An Island,” “All Burn,” and “Let It Dry.” People can expect to hear a little bit of every album at any given show on this tour. We can’t wait to pull out a lot of stuff that’s been pretty much shelved for years.
You guys also received praise from NPR’s All Songs Considered last year. Did you guys see a considerable boost in exposure from all that? Have there been people who you know found your music through that feature? Also, as an aside, how cool was it to be featured by All Songs Considered?!
The NPR feature was a dream come true for us. I’ve been introduced to many artists who I still love and listen to today so it was a huge deal to us. It’s hard to say how many new fans we gained from that exposure but anything with NPR attached to it usually turns some heads, so for that we’re extremely grateful!
Tell us a little about yourself. How did you get into playing music and then how did the genesis of the band begin? I read that it started in Columbus, Ohio, but how long have you guys known each other and what finally led you two to start playing music?
Our mother stressed music to us at a very early age, starting us in piano lessons around age 5. I eventually gravitated towards percussion and ultimately, the drum set around age 11. Casey played trumpet all through grade school and high school. He eventually switched to bass and composition when he got to college. We’ve been playing music together in some sort of capacity for almost 20 years. The Receiver itself spawned from Casey’s senior thesis at Ohio State University in 2004. A handful of ideas/songs came from that 23-minute piece he composed at OSU’s School of Music. Once Casey graduated, we both decided to dive in head first and three albums later, here we are.
What’s it like to play drums in a band like this? Have you ever played in projects that focus on other genres and if so, do you find a specific other genre that you enjoy playing the most? Why?
This project is unique in that there’s only two of us up there playing. There’s a lot of sequencing with synth lines and pads so most of it is me playing to a click track. This is the first project I’ve had to use the click. Any drummer will tell you it’s the devil when you’re first introduced to the concept of playing to one. The best advice I’ve had when addressing the click was from my friend, Jerome Dillon, who played in Nine Inch Nails (1999-2006). He told me to try and not look at it as a machine, but imagine your favorite drummer standing next to you hitting a cowbell, pulling you along to the tempo. I’ll never forget that and it helped me to adjust to and accept it in my playing. I honestly prefer to play to one now!
I’ve played in numerous projects over the years, from my first band out of high school, Lucid’s Dream, which was psychedelic rock, to Lollipop Factory which was glam-super-hero-rock (ala Queen, Sweet, and Iron Maiden). Currently, I play in a couple side projects. One, is The Beatles Marathon, which is held in Columbus, Ohio, every year during holiday season. It’s a complete performance of all 215 Beatles songs in chronological order by a core group of musicians. It’s a 12-hour show and there’s a lot of preparation that goes into it. So that definitely keeps me in shape and on my toes. I also play in The Liner Notes where we cover a classic album every couple of months from start to finish. Some of the shows have featured Radiohead’s “OK Computer,” Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here,” and Elliott Smith’s “Figure 8.” I tend to gravitate to the classic ’70s feel in anything I play. It’s what I’m best at.
Who are some of your major influences and why?
I personally come from the school of classic rock. My immediate influences are from bands like Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, The Beatles, Yes, and Queen. That’s the stuff that I fell in love with as a teenager and what helped me develop drumming chops. I think any drummer should really dig into players like John Bonham, Bill Bruford, and Nick Mason. They taught me less is more in a lot of situations and playing in the pocket is so much more important than showing off.
Can you give us names of some bands we need to check out that we maybe haven’t seen yet? Who are you listening to the most these days?
We’re huge fans of artists like Pink Floyd, Blonde Redhead, Rufus Wainwright, and Air. You really can’t go wrong with any of that. As of late, Casey has turned me onto a lot of ambient/electronic stuff like Nils Frahm, Rival Consoles, and Darkside. None of these artists use real drums but it has pushed me to approach the drumset differently and stretch out with new patterns/beats.
Have you guys been to Frederick before? If so, what are you looking forward to the most? If not, are there things you’re looking forward to checking out?
I’ve only been through Frederick before so we’re definitely excited to hang out and take in the town. I’ve attended a few shows at Merriweather Post Pavilion which is fairly close by. Such an amazing venue with a rich history dating back to the late ’60s.